At the end of January 2014, the Government launched a £30 million research programme to help small businesses access professional advice.
The business support is delivered in the form of allocated Growth Vouchers, enabling businesses to receive a 50% subsidy towards the cost of obtaining advice on 5 key topics that help businesses to grow.
What are Growth Vouchers?
Subject to certain conditions, small businesses that participate in this programme will be allocated vouchers to spend on strategic advice from suppliers in the private sector, matched with their own funds, on one of 5 categories of support.
The 5 Categories of Support
Growth Vouchers can be used to obtain strategic advice in any of the following categories:
- Managing cashflow, late payments and negotiating finance (see below for further information)
- Developing skills and taking on staff
- Improving Leadership and Management
- Marketing, attracting and keeping customers
- Making the most of digital technology
Your business must:
- Have 49 employees or less (including any employees of companies that own a stake in your business)
- Be registered in England
- Have been trading for at least one year
- Not have paid for business advice in the last 3 years*
- Be independent (i.e. no more than 25% is owned by other businesses or organisations)
* If your business has received 'day-to-day' advice from an accountant, bookkeeper, and solicitor or as a member of a business organisation on completing your annual business accounts, or understanding the legal/ regulatory requirements of running your business, you should still be eligible for the Programme.
What is the value of a voucher?
The Government will match your spend up to a maximum value of £2,000. This means you can spend as much or as little as you want on the advice but the maximum contribution from the Government will be £2,000. For example:
- You spend £1,200 on support: £600 from you and £600 matched from Government
- You spend £4,000 on support: £2,000 from you and £2,000 from Government
- You spend £5,500 on support: £3,500 from you and £2,000 from Government
On the Enterprise Nation Marketplace, you will find suppliers who meet the minimum standards required to be suppliers as part of the Growth Vouchers programme and with whom you can spend your vouchers.
As the small business owner, you pay the supplier and then claim back up to £2,000 from Government.
How can I get a Growth Voucher?
You may apply for Growth Vouchers on a Government website. If you meet the criteria, you will then be guided through a diagnostic filter which will help you assess your business needs. The process will be done either online or through a face-to-face meeting with an adviser. After this, you will be notified if you have received a voucher.
With a voucher in hand, what do I do next?
You visit the Enterprise Nation Marketplace and find a supplier/ advisor with whom you can spend your voucher. Suppliers are members of Founding Trade & Professional Bodies so the quality of advice they offer is assured.
Could I spend my vouchers with TaxAssist Accountants?
You may indeed spend your Growth Vouchers with your local TaxAssist Accountant. Due to the terms and conditions of the programme, the vouchers couldn’t cover the day-to-day services we would provide you with such as preparing your accounts and Tax Return. However, they would be able to cover more strategic work, such as:
- A financial healthcheck - consultancy to review the financial health of your business and developing a strategy for growth
- Financial planning, creditworthiness and investment-readiness
- Cashflow and credit management
- Basic business planning for debt finance
- Enhanced business planning and evaluation for equity finance
- Strategic management accounting
Due to the nature of the advice given, activities funded by the scheme should result in securing long-term change in the business, its operations and its capabilities.
By Jo Nockels
Last updated April 2014
Disclaimer: The information provided is based on current guidance (at date of publication) from HMRC and may be subject to change. Any advice shared here is intended to inform rather than advise. Taxpayer's circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact us before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this information, before receiving our written endorsement, we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.